An unnamed Islamic State command team has published an e-book for apprentice terrorists that aims to multiply attacks against civilian targets in the United States and Europe. The handbook likely is a forecast of attacks that will be made in forthcoming months based on the fact that the deadly truck attack in Nice, France July 14, 2016, was preceded five months earlier by an ISIS video promoting murder by Truck.
First released in Turkish on July 3 in the Telegram application ISIS chat rooms, the encrypted social media platform, the “Lone Wolf’s Handbook” gives simple but detailed instructions for burning vehicles, setting forest fires, creating highway accidents, making bombs, vehicular homicide, and bringing down buildings with explosives. The 66-page manual includes 174 illustrations and 7 charts and is written in casual language pitched to younger readers.
Additionally, German language version of Islamic State’s magazine Rumiyah (issue 11 published in July 2017) incited and asked its followers to carry out similar attacks including committing arson with a how-to guide and other dangerous low-tech tactics detailed in the “Lone Wolf’s Handbook.” At the same time, Islamic State social media accounts started a social media campaing called “Lone Wolves to the fields.”
The New Threats: Highway Traps and Forest Fires
The first chapter is titled “Operation Parking is Forbidden,” which suggests that the author may be a veteran terrorist commander having spent time in the Nineveh Plain battles in Iraq. In this section, ISIS cadre are advised to burn their enemies’ cars in retaliation to the bombings of the US-led Coalition forces. Arson is one of the user-friendly weapons: “All you need is some gas and a match.”
Prospected arsonists are advised to be vigilant about CCTV cameras and to carefully plan exit routes. The manual references French radicals who are infamous for burning as many as 1200 vehicles in coordinated riots over a large area. In France, car burning for some youth was a kind of extreme sport. The terrorists know that scores of boys between the ages of 12 and 16 are easy to recruit and without video evidence, these crimes can be hard to solve.
I encountered the challenge first-hand as chief of counter-terrorism police in Turkey in 2012. Our police personnel in the 2-million-person city of Sanliurfa were tied down for weeks with a coordinated campaign of car burnings at the same time of night in distant parts of the city. Unless there is direct intelligence or the perpetrators are caught red handed, countering these campaigns is a rubix-cube test for police.
Chapter two and three broach entirely new frontiers of terrorism in the West: triggering highway accidents and causing forest fires.
Chapter two is dedicated to “Causing Road Accidents.” The manual claims that the infidels had already chosen the “wrong way” and now “it is time to ensure their cars go the wrong ways, too.” The recipe for this attack calls for 40 liters (12 gallons) of motor oil of grease (or even kitchen vegetable oil) and applying it 50 feet before entering the highway curves so that the drivers would lose the control of their cars.
Another method to cause accidents, the reader is advised, is by blowing up car tires on vehicles in motion. This entails creating road traps and concealing them so that accidents would happen after drivers run over them. ISIS even provided statistics about road accidents and how many people are dying due to accidents around the world and in the United States. According to the manual, every year 37,000 people die due to road accidents in the U.S. costing over $230 billion dollars to the budget.
The third chapter gives instructions on how to cause forest fires. Readers are given the steps to making napalm-like explosives, taught how to ignite the explosives remotely and where to place the explosives in a forest. In addition to electronic ignition, the manual describes more primitive ways, including acid-and-match combinations. The latter basically delay a fire as the acid melts nylon covers to ignite the fire. The budding arsonist learns how to accommodate for humidity, wind conditions, elevated land and to choose forests close to residential housing.
Terrorists are strictly advised about their own security, too, since getting caught up in the fire they cause can lead to loss of face.
The fourth section, titled “the ultimate human lawn mower” is about the use of vehicles to kill, first promoted in a slickly produced music video in January 2016. Since then, this tactic has claimed dozens of victims in France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. This section starts with justifications and explanations why the U.S. is a terrorist state and why it is time to have the Americans pay for their crimes. ISIS members are advised to get a large 4X4 truck and to weld knife-like metal blades on bumpers and around headlights to increase the causalities.
Attackers are advised to choose the most crowded places and drive over people as fast as possible to exact the most damage. They are also told not to stop after the first hit and to keep driving over as many victims as possible. Furthermore, the terrorists are advised to choose the routes appropriately to ensure that there would be many other victims after the initial hit. According to ISIS, these kinds of attacks should be considered as suicide missions as in most cases the attackers would be captured or killed. The driver assassins are advised to have weapons if possible and fight back until the very end. Attackers are particularly advised to carry out such attacks in Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. They are also instructed to leave a note behind claiming the attack in the name of ISIS.
Bomb Making “in Mom’s Kitchen”
The fifth chapter focuses on demolishing buildings. The manual starts with explaining that there are two ways to tear down buildings or cause explosions: mechanical and chemical. While chemical explosions require some level of professionalism, it is always easier to carry out mechanical explosions, claims the manual. Mechanical explosions are described as mixing a kind of explosive material like gas or gun powder with oxygen and an igniter. ISIS describes the easiest way to carry out such attacks as using the gas or propane tanks or by using already available gas lines to cause explosions. The authors advise several ways to carry out such attacks with several precautions so that the perpetrators are not captured and so that the attack would cause the maximum damage. Attackers are advised not to purchase several propane tanks at the same time not to get the attention of the sales clerks. They are instructed to set up the explosions in a way that the police and firefighters might conclude that the incident was an accident. Terrorists are told not to leave fingerprints and CCTV camera recordings behind. Finally, the attackers are advised which parts of larger buildings to blow up so that whole building could be brought down.
The sixth chapter is titled “the Chefs’ Recipes: Kitchen Fun,” which instructs how to “make a bomb in your mom’s kitchen.” A homemade bomb is one of the best ways to carry out attacks in the West because the ingredients are readily and publicly available everywhere and could be reached without getting any attention, according to the manual. Also, in case there is a search of a terrorist’s house, law enforcement would not find explosives and bomb-squad dogs would not be able to sniff them as explosives. Finally, by applying the tactics and methods described in the manual, a lone terrorist could kill several people through simple procedures periodically.
There are four steps. First, they talk about the casings. Second, they instruct how to produce the main ingredients for the explosives from sugar and matches. Third, they detail how to set up the igniter from different day-to-day materials including Christmas bulbs. In the end, future attackers are taught how to build the explosives by using the materials they gathered. The manual also provides ways to make the bombs deadlier by packing nails or metal fragments on the outer walls of the bombs so as to kill more people. For ignition of the homemade bombs, the manual relates how to use batteries, delayed-ignition systems including manual clocks or remote-control systems.
The seventh chapter of the manual is mostly based on al-Qaeda’s previous instructions by code name “Dr. Khateer” (student of Abu Khabab al-Misri in Afghanistan) about how to produce “peroxide” based explosives including “TATP or TACP” through several and in most cases dangerous chemical reaction processes which would require some level of chemistry knowledge. This section explains step by step how to produce peroxide-based chemical explosives in detail with ample pictures to support the production of the materials. The ingredients are readily available at consumer markets. Each step is detailed with extra precautionary measures and with clues to ensure the successful production of explosive materials.
The eighth chapter tells about “remote detonators.” The manual provides in-depth step by step instructions on how to produce remote detonators from car alarms and washing machine timers. This section is also mostly based on Dr. Khateer’s previously produced al-Qaeda manuals. However, the terrorists are provided knowledge and experiences about where to purchase the electronics they need without arousing suspicion.
The ninth and tenth chapters are about the use of handguns and AK-47s for attacks. While the manual provided additional insights and information in the previous chapters, these two chapters chiefly discuss the Makarov handgun and an AK-47 assault rifle. The guns are explained at length, including their parts, how to dismantle them and clean them and eventually how to use them.
Terrorist organizations stay alive with three essential linked elements: ongoing attacks, propaganda through their attacks and continued recruitment based on sensational publicity. For terrorist organizations staying alive means being able to carry out continued attacks, and for ISIS this means attacks in the West. The mounting defeats of ISIS terrorists in Iraq and the rapid loss of territory may be hurting its star power. Therefore, the “Lone Wolf’s Handbook” likely was rushed to its Turkish-speaking followers regardless of the level of their training and education. The manual also echoes the recent calls of ISIS leaders during the recently-concluded 2017 Ramadan to assault Western interests however they can.
How to Defend against the New Threats
The first line of defense is communicating the existence of this manual to first responders and law enforcement agencies. It is essential that even regular officers who are routinely out on the streets have situational awareness of the threat.
Second, officers should be briefed on how to be vigilant regarding these tactics and what to look for in their daily routines. For example, as they drive, they should be checking roads for traps. In particular, they should increase observation of people who are out late at night and must be able to observe if they are carrying anything flammable liquids or LPG/propane tanks.
Third, law enforcement presence on the streets, around critical infrastructures and where high numbers of people present is crucial. Evaluating possible priorities of terrorists in choosing their targets by law enforcement agencies locally and then allocating their resources based on their evaluations is essential in countering such threats. For this, law enforcement and homeland security officers must be able to think like terrorists and should be fed by intelligence agencies.
The dispatch centers, fire departments and the emergency services should be notified about the true nature of the threats and what to expect. The priority for the dispatch centers should be bearing in mind that fires could be terrorist attacks so that the appropriate communication mediums are established with the related agencies after such incidents. It is also imperative to evaluate the 911 calls from the same perspective as often there might be public tips related to such attacks that might implicate terrorism.
Beyond Bombs and Bullets: A Comprehensive Approach Needed to Defeat ISIS
Many articles with similar ideas have been written about the current situation with ISIS and what will happen to the terrorist organization in the future. Most of these articles, however, ask incomplete or incorrect questions, which leads to inaccurate assessments of the safety of the world when ISIS is defeated. The articles typically ask questions such as: Can it be claimed that removal of ISIS from the territory in which it operates mean the end to ISIS, or is it only the displacement of terrorism? Shall we celebrate the defeat of ISIS or still be concerned about it? These questions, unfortunately, are incomplete and do not address key elements of the issue. The critical, and more appropriate, questions to ask are: Will the violent and extreme mindset and ideology end when ISIS is defeated? Is it possible that ISIS will transform itself or merges with another terrorist group? Is hard power the solution?
ISIS is just another body into which the violent and extremist ideology of jihadi Salafism has entered. The body dies, but the soul does not. When the body dies, the bad soul will enter another body of a different name. In the case of a defeated ISIS, the organization will die physically but survive as others take up its cause. As long as the violent and extremist ideology and dark soul of ISIS survives, there will always be a body for the soul to wear. The jihadi Salafist ideology will live a new life in a body transformed into another shape and structure.
Failure to ask the right questions means being unable to see and diagnose the problem correctly, intervene correctly, respond correctly, offer the correct solutions, and correctly assess the outcome rightly. In other words, a mistaken first step often leads to subsequent missteps and dire consequences in the long run. For example, when tar is on fire, the expected and first response would be to douse the fire with water; however, the compounds in the tar render water ineffective in putting out the fire and may even make the situation worse.In terms of terrorism, ISIS is the tar, and the commonsense first response would be to use all power available to eradicate the organization.
The literature on terrorism acknowledges that terrorism and radicalization are complex and multidimensional concepts that involve social, psychological, political, financial, and educational issues. Given this mix of factors, could a military and/or law enforcement intervention be the solution to terrorism and radicalization? The answer is “no.” Could the hard power be the solution to some psychological factors (i.e., alienation) or political factors (i.e., political exclusion and oppression) of joining terrorist groups? Again, the answer is “no.” The answer will always be “no” until the solution offered addresses the multiple dimensions of the problem with a comprehensive, but individualized, approach. A reliance on bombs, bullets, and warfare alone will not suffice.
For example, if an individual joins a terrorist group because of a family issue—such as forced marriage, domestic violence, or alienation from close relatives, lack of love and respect among family members—then the approach should focus on family structures and family environments. If an individual whose spouse, children, or extended family members were killed by government security forces longs for revenge and is recruited as a suicide bomber, a military/law enforcement solution alone will not solve the underlying problem. Nor is it the correct approach when an individual has joined a terrorist organization in response to the lack of democratic and human rights. If militants are recruited and exposed to propaganda in virtual environments, then the counterterrorism approach should address those virtual environments to neutralize the terrorist indoctrination. If potential militants are easily swayed by radicals misinterpreting and exploiting religious scriptures because they are poorly educated and lack religious awareness and knowledge, then the counterterrorism approach should focus on counter-narratives and religion-awareness programs. A continued emphasis on tanks, gunfire, and bombs, is a waste of precious money, time, and effort, and lives and, worse yet, justification of terrorist narratives.
Jihadists of Katibat Imam al Bukhari are afraid of the US strike
The US State Department added Central Asian jihadist group Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB) to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorist organizations on March 22, 2018.
As noted in the statement “the Department of State has designated KIB as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes strict sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. This designation seeks to deny KIB the resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of the group’s property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.”
It is already common knowledge that,KIB is fighting in Syria as part of the al Qaeda-linked rebel coalition Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham. The KIB detachment was created in Afghanistan on the basis of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. KIB also operates in Afghanistan and has pledged loyalty to the Taliban, who are in turn tight allies with al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network. After the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2012, KIB, on the recommendation of Al-Qaeda, moved to the province of Idlib and distinguished itself as one of the major rebel groups fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad. A group of the jihadists of the KIB is also based in Afghanistan today and is fighting together with the Taliban. About 200 militants are known to fight in the KIB. The propaganda materials of the group are actively disseminated in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Three days after the decision of the US State Department to include KIB in the list of global terrorist organizations, Shura of the KIB issued its own statementin response. In itsown statement, which was released via Telegram on March 25, 2018, KIB protested their designation as terrorists by the State Department. KIB states that it “was surprised by the American resolution to enlist the Imam al Bukhari Brigade on the world terror list notwithstanding that we do not have ideological or intellectual ties with any faction internationally enlisted.”
It is most interesting that Shura of the KIB, for its protection, used a lot of peaceful terms in their response such as «international law», «rights of freedom», “murderous Assad regime”, “struggle for а decent life of the Syrian people”, etc.
KIB claimed in their response, that their volunteers from many Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan, formed their brigade “as a result of the war’s long duration in Syria and the increasing number of expats.”Shura of the KIB described his mission in the Middle East as protecting the simple and peaceful Syrian people from the bloody regime of Assad and his external sponsors, Hezbollah, Iranian Shiite militants and Russia.
KIB also claimed that they’ve been fighting with the Free Syrian Army to protect civilians against threats like ISIS, “which pushed ISIS to assassinate our previous leader (Sheikh Salahuddin).””The classification of Imam al-Bukhari Brigade by U.S., turns a blind eye on thousands of the Iranian-backed foreign Shiite militias that commit war crimes against the Syrians, and proves that the U.S. applies double standards and it is only concerned about its interests,” KIB continued.The Shura of group vowed to stay the course “in spite of pains and problems whether in our country or by the world order.”
In this regard, it should be noted that the “justifiable arguments” of the KIB that its fighters are fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and precisely because of this fact they should not be included in the list of world terrorist groups does not make sense.Firstly, not only the numerous factions of armed revolutionaries and the fragmentary Syrian opposition are fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad, but also the world jihadist groups ISIS and Al-Qaeda.However, their goals are completely different. If the peaceful Syrian opposition wants to build a democratic state in Syria in the future, then ISIS and Al Qaeda are fighting for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East.Al-Qaeda backed KIB that affiliated with Jabhat al Nusra, completely shares the position of his patrons.
Secondly, radical Salafism and militant Takfirism are the fundamental basis of the jihadi ideology of the KIB.In accordance with the ideological doctrine of KIB that was recently published on its Telegram channel, the group considers its goal the construction of an Islamic state in Central Asia, the overthrow of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the protection and spread of jihadi ideology around the world by force.
Thirdly, jihad is the main tool for KIB in achieving its goals, that is, in building the Islamic Caliphate.In their propaganda materials, KIB leaders urge Muslims to wage jihad against the godless regimes of Central Asia and the West.After President Trump decided the U.S. Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, KIB leader Abu Yusuf Muhojir posted on his Telegram page a pledge to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque and wage jihad on the West.
The Syrian Liberation Front (SLF) — a joint venture formed by Ahrar al-Sham and the Nur al-Din al-Zanki Movement in February — has joined KIB in denouncing the State Department’s designation as well.In its statement the SLF argues that the KIB is an “independent” faction comprised of Uzbeks who were “forced out of their country” and who now fight against the Assad regime and ISIS. It is known that Ahrar al-Sham is an al Qaeda backed Salafi-jihadi group who fought alongside Al Nusrah Front in the past.The SLF also points to the assassination of KIB leader Sheikh Salahuddinlast year, alleging that ISIS cooperated with “Russian intelligence” in the killing.
In this regard, it should be noted that the assassination of the leader of KIB Sheikh Salahuddin is related to the confrontation between ISIS and al-Qaida, which led to internal fighting among the Central Asian jihadists in Syria.His real name was Akmal Jurabaev and he was born and grew up in the Uzbek town of Namangan. He shared the religious views and Salafi ideology of the Taliban and al Qaeda. On April 27, 2017, during the evening prayer in the mosque of a Syrian city of Idlib, Sheikh Salahuddin was killed by an Uzbek militant who was a member of ISIS. The Islamic State distributed the following statement via Telegram messenger in this regard, “The emir of detachment of Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, Sheikh Salahuddin, was punished according to the Sharia law for all the betrayals he committed.”
The Uzbek militant from Tajikistan, known as Abu Yusuf Muhojir, was appointed the new leader of the group. The Uzbek social networks have characterized him as the distinguished military strategist who has implemented a series of successful operations against the army of Bashar Assad. After the comprehensive analysis of his public speeches in the audio format published on the Telegram, we can draw the following conclusions: Abu Yusuf Muhojirhas the deep religious knowledge, knew the nuances of the Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) and jihad.
It is no accident that in their statements, KIB and SLF appealed to the fact that the leader of the Uzbek jihadists, Sheikh Salahuddin,was assassinated by ISIS militants.Using this argument that Uzbek militants are fighting with ISIS and their leader has fallen by the hands of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi supporters, KIB is trying to justify its terrorist activities and to avoid international persecution in accordance with the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
This is not the first time that the United States has designateda Central Asian jihadist group on the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list.After designation of a terrorist group in the list of global terrorists, the US special services are allowed to carry out operations to eliminate the leaders of those terrorist groups, to take decisive measures to destroy financial schemes and to effectively put international pressure on them.
As is already known, the US State Department has designated the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan(IMU) in the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list on September 25, 2000.As a result, the leader of the group Tahir Yuldash (2009) and the military commander of the group Juma Namangoni (2001) were killed as a result of US missile airstrike.
On June 17, 2005, the US State Department designated the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) to the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.The IJU is a splinter faction of the IMU, and a substantial number of its members are from Central Asia.The IJU has been waging jihad in the Afghan-Pakistan region for more than a decade. It maintains close ties with al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The US has killed several top IJU leaders, including its emir, Najmuddin Jalolov, in drone strikes in North Waziristan 2009.
On December 29, 2004, the US State Department designated Uyghur Salafi-jihadi group the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (the Turkestan Islamic Party) to the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL).As a result, leaders of the Turkestan Islamic Party Hassan Mahsum (2003) and Abdul Shakur al-Turkistani (2012) were killed in US drone strike.
Based on this, we can assume what fate awaits the leaders and militants of the KIB in the near future. The designation of the KIB in the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list testifies to the US Government’s determination to combat the jihadist ideology of Salafism worldwide.This is a tangible support to the governments of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, which are facing a real threat of transnational terrorism.After all, the backbone of the KIB is made up of people from the Ferghana Valley of Central Asia, mainly of Uzbek nationality.
According to the Soufan Group, out of 5,000 people who left Central Asia for Syria and Iraq, about 500 jihadists in the ISIS ranks went back to their homes. But among the returnees, there are almost no militants KIB, Katibat al-Tawhidwal Jihad (KTJ), IJU and TIP, which are affiliated with al Qaeda. After the fall of ISIS, it is the militants linked with the al Qaeda that pose a big threat to the countries of Central Asia. Therefore, the emergence of two theatres of war for al Qaeda backed Central Asian militants in Syria and Afghanistan and the relative ease of transit between these two theatres via Turkey increases the threat that jihadists can return to Central Asia at an opportune moment, such as at a time of political, social or economic crises.This would be dangerous for the regimes of Central Asia.
Therefore, the designation of the KIB by the US government into the list of global terrorist organizations gives a positive impetus to the efforts of the Central Asian countries in respect to counterterrorism.But so far the Central Asian governments have not openly reacted to the initiative of the US State Department. Perhaps such a reaction followed through diplomatic channels, which are closed to the public.
The war in Afghanistan and in the Middle East over the past 17 years has shown that the United States is in the forefront of the fight against transnational terrorism and religious extremism. Therefore, it would be difficult for the Governments of Central Asia to do without US assistance in combating the radical ideology of Salafism and world jihadism.
The Central Asian states are in a bind insofar as there is little they can do to stymie the growth of the KIB, KTJ, IJU and TIP in Syria given their lack of influenceand likely also their lack of intelligence.As a result, the Central Asian governments will likely need to develop comprehensive national security strategies with allies both within the region and abroad to manage the complexities of emerging threats.To achieve results in the fight against jihadism, the Central Asian countries need to solve three main tasks.
First, to intensify cooperation with the United States and the exchange of intelligence data.Successful coordination between law enforcement agencies will help to block the channels of financial, material and military assistance to the jihadist groups from Central Asia, affiliated with al Qaeda.Joint cooperation will contribute to the dismantling of bases, camps and training centers for Central Asian jihadist groups in Syria and Afghanistan, neutralizing prominent leaders and identifying commercial organizations and foundations that subsidize them. The fight against Al Qaeda is a more difficult than with ISIS, as it does not have its own territory, which can be hit. In the fight against Al-Qaeda, the United States has significant anti-terrorist experience, effective intelligence tools and advanced technical capabilities.
Secondly, given the increased role of another Uzbek group Katibat al-Tawhidwal Jihad in the global jihad and their successful terrorist acts in Russia (the explosion of the metro in St. Petersburg) and in Kyrgyzstan (the explosion of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek), the governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan should lobby the US to include the KTJ in the list of global terrorist organizations.
Thirdly, for successful international coordination of anti-terrorist efforts, security agencies and special services of the countries of Central Asia need to get rid of block thinking and anti-American sentiment, which is a legacy of the Soviet empire and which is being initiated by Russia.Kremlinis known to consider Central Asia as an area of its influence. Putin is imposing its anti-American ideology on the countries of the region, which impedes the joint struggle against world jihadism. The confrontation between Russia and the West on the activities of the Taliban and the future regime of Bashar al-Assad enable jihadist groups from Central Asia to successfully assimilate into a global jihad. Therefore, the governments of Central Asia must work out their own self-position, which allows them to actively cooperate with the US in the fight against the global jihadist threat in the world and stop being a Putin’s “whipping boy”.
How to stop terrorism: EU measures explained
Stopping terrorism requires tackling issues such as foreign fighters, border controls and cutting off funds. Learn about the EU’s counter terrorism policies.
EU measures to prevent new attacks run from more thorough checks at Europe’s borders, to better police and judicial cooperation on tracing suspects and pursuing perpetrators, cutting the financing of terrorism, tackling organised crime, addressing radicalisation and others.
Improving border controls
In order to safeguard security within the Schengen zone, systematic checks at the EU’s external borders on all people entering the EU – including EU citizens – were introduced in April 2017.
To record the movements of non-EU citizens across the Schengen area and speed up controls, a new entry and exit registration system was agreed by Parliament and EU ministers on 30 November 2017. These new external border controls are expected to become fully functional by 2020 at the latest.
Stopping foreign terrorist fighters
At least 7,800 Europeans from 24 countries are believed to have travelled to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq to join jihadist terrorist groups, according to Europol. Although there is a decrease in travel, the number of returning foreign fighters is expected to rise if Islamic State is defeated militarily or collapses.
In order to criminalise acts such as undertaking training or travelling for terrorist purposes, as well as organising or facilitating such travel, Europe put in place EU-wide legislation on terrorism that, together with new controls at the external borders, will help to tackle the foreign fighter phenomenon.
Making use of air passenger data
Airlines operating flights to and from the EU are obliged to hand national authorities the data of their passengers such as names, travel dates, itinerary and payment method.
This so-called PNR data is used to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences and serious crimes. Negotiations took more than five years and Parliament insisted on safeguards for sensitive data (revealing racial origin, religion, political opinion, health or sexual orientation) and data protection.
Stepping up the exchange of information
The man who carried out the Berlin Christmas market attack used multiple identities to evade border and law enforcement authorities. This, and other similar cases, show the importance of effective information sharing between different authorities (law enforcement, judicial, intelligence) in EU countries.
The EU already has many databases and information systems for border management and internal security. The Parliament is currently focusing on rules that will enable the interoperability of the databases and allow for the simultaneous consultation of the different systems.
Europol, the EU’s police agency, supports the exchange of information between national police authorities as the EU criminal information hub. In May 2016 the Parliament agreed to give more powers to Europol to step up the fight against terrorism as well as to set up specialised units such as the European counter terrorism centre, which was launched on 25 January 2016.
Tackling the financing of terrorism
An effective measure to stop terrorists is to cut their sources of revenue and disrupt logistics. The Parliament wants EU countries to track suspicious financial transactions and charities and also look into the trafficking of oil, cigarettes, gold, gems and works of art.
MEPs have completed the latest update of the EU’s anti-money laundering directive, which tightens the rules on virtual currency platforms and anonymous prepaid cards.
MEPs also managed to secure additional resources in the EU’s 2018 budget to better fight terrorism and organised crime. The European Commission recently set up a blockchain observatory in response to Parliament calls to monitor virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, to prevent them being used to finance terrorism.
Reducing access to dangerous weapons
The EU does everything possible to prevent dangerous weapons falling into the hands of the wrong people. The revised firearms directive closed legal loopholes that allowed terrorists to use reconverted weapons, for example in the Paris 2015 attacks. It requires EU countries to have a proper monitoring system, while keeping exemptions for hunters, museums and collectors.
Most of the terrorist attacks in Europe were perpetrated by home-grown terrorists. Parliament therefore proposed measures to fight radicalisation and extremism in prisons and online by making use of education and social inclusion.
The EU’s added value
The EU level is the main forum for cooperation between member states in the fight against terrorism, even though counter-terrorism policies are to a large extent the responsability of countries..
MEPs decide on a par with EU ministers on major EU counter-terrorism laws. Traditionally, Parliament makes sure fundamental rights and data protection are respected.
The EU’s counter-terrorism strategy is based on four strands: prevent, protect, pursue and respond. The current framework that the European Commission follows in its proposals is the European Agenda on Security 2015-2020, which aims to facilitate cooperation between EU countries in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime.
In recent years there have been many EU policies on counter-terrorism and it involves many people, organisations and strategies. The Parliament set up a special committee to suggest ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the EU’s response to terrorism.
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